"Tightly packed but brilliantly set out, the first exhibition ever devoted to contemporary Latin American art at the Museum of Fine Arts warrants repeat visits. Called “Permission to Be Global/Prácticas Globales: Latin American Art From the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection,” it comes to the MFA after a showing in Miami, the home of the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, where its opening last December coincided with the art fair, Art Basel Miami Beach.
Some of the biggest names of Latin American art are here: Lygia Clark, Ernesto Neto, Ana Mendieta, Guillermo Kuitca, Cildo Meireles, Oscar Munoz, Leon Ferrari, and Gabriel Orozco. But so are lesser-known figures, and many of the works still have the smell of hatchlings, having been made in the past few years.
Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, the entrepreneur, philanthropist, and environmentalist behind the collection, defines “Latin American” broadly. Many of the artists in the show live, or lived, outside of their Latin American homelands. Marisol Escobar, for instance, whose sculpture “The Sunbathers” graces the passageway leading up to the show, was born in Paris to Venezuelan parents, and is most often associated with the postwar art scene in downtown Manhattan, where she has lived most of her life.
Still, her presence here is welcome: Venezuela is in her bones, and the influence of Latin American fine and folk art on her work is undeniable. More importantly, I’ve yet to see a Marisol sculpture I didn’t like.
All together, there are 61 works in the show (including, in several cases, multiple works by the same artist), 18 fewer than in Miami. They were selected by curators Jen Mergel and Liz Munsell from the MFA and Jesus Fuenmayor from the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation.
Life in Latin America, this show reminds us, is remarkably like life everywhere. Fraught, funny, subject to forces beyond our control, and always unfurling itself in the shadow of death.
Some situations, though — there’s no getting around it — are specific to their time and place. For instance: Performances scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday of last week by Cuban artist Lázaro Saavedra had to be postponed. The performances, in which Saavedra was to lie in an ornate casket installed in the gallery, were banned by Cuban cultural authorities in 1990."
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